Want to go faster on the bike? Then some carbon wheels with deeper rims to slice through wind are one of the most proven investments you can make.
While your legs are the most important piece of the puzzle in the quest for speed, when we’re talking about time you can save using deep rim wheelsets compared to standard training wheels over an hour, we’re often dealing in minutes rather than seconds. And, if you’re competing in Ironman, you can multiply that a few times over.
Modern carbon race wheels are relatively more affordable and better quality than ever, with numerous brands now offering imports designed to their own specifications.
With the shift towards disc brakes and wider tyres, many brands now offer rims that are wider internally with options to run standard clinchers with inner tubes, or tubeless tyres with sealant to bolster puncture protection.
It’s a case of purchasing based on your preferred race distances and locations, and if you have even more budget then that could mean investing in different depth triathlon wheels for varying conditions.
Best triathlon wheels for racing
Fulcrum Speed 55 DB
The Speed 55 DB wheelset features Fulcrum’s ‘2-Way Fit’ system which, according to Fulcrum, means they should run well as tubeless or with tubes thanks to extra precise engineering in the valve area.
A 19mm internal width is bang on trend and an asymmetrical spoke pattern with 21 at the front and rear should improve balance and stiffness. On the road, the Speed 55s provide a very smooth ride, enhanced by USB ceramic bearings.
The freehub whistles quietly, which is appropriate for the regal ride experience, and when you want to crank the power up, engagement is rapid. They’re no trouble at all in the wind, and we think the Speed 55 front wheel would be ideal paired with a rear disc wheel for very fast days. They’re not cheap, but you’re getting a super refined ride feel for the premium.
Score: A big investment, yes… but with big performance to match.
Fast Forward Ryot 55
FFWD claims the Ryot 55 is ‘the fastest wheel out there’, beating competitors in the wind tunnel. But that test pitched the Ryot against wheels from Fulcrum and Roval that are no longer top-of-the-range.
Even so, FFWD has developed these wheels with ‘Laminar Airflow Wing’ tech to improve airflow between rim and tyre when using wider tyres, with a big 21mm internal width so your 25mm tyre blows up to over 28mm.
Rim tape is included and you can run tubeless or clincher tyres. While not quite as fast to engage as Fulcrum’s Speed 55, the Ryots offered plenty of free speed on the flats and felt controllable in the wind.
At 1,620g per pair, they’re not the lightest, but they’re also not cumbersome on climbs. Like the Hunts, the FFWD three-year warranty and crash replacement policy is generous.
Verdict: Fast, fairly nimble despite the weight and optimised for wider tyres.
Parcours Chrono Disc
Parcours updated its Chrono wheelset in 2019, adding the disc brake set we’re reviewing and revamping the front wheel for improved crosswind performance, including reducing the depth to 77mm.
It adds up to a side force reduction of 15% in Parcours’ wind tunnel testing, which we can believe on the road; the Chrono outperforms the CES Sport wheels and is on par with Reynolds’ shallower ARX 58/62 in terms of crosswind performance.
They’re fast when you’re up to speed, though the 1,705g combined weight adds up to slightly sluggish acceleration and uphill performance. It’s a combination that’s still too deep to use year-round and on super windy days, so you’ll also need a shallower set. But the brand’s reasonable prices will help to make that possible.
Verdict: Reasonably-priced deep rims for fast days when there’s little wind.
Deda Elementi SL45DB Carbon
Deda Elementi’s SL45DB is tubeless-ready, features wide internal rim beds and has an asymmetric design with 24 spokes front and rear. The 45mm-deep rims are made from high modulus carbon that combines unidirectional and 3K construction techniques, all of which adds up to a combined weight of 1,540g.
Like Fulcrum’s Speed 55, the SL45s feature ceramic bearings, which contribute to a smooth and balanced ride on the road. While not offering huge depth for ultimate watt savings, there’s enough for plenty of aero advantage over shallower wheels, and they’re great in the wind.
They’re also impressively stiff and strong, with no flex evident when accelerating or climbing. We’d like a lighter weight for the depth, but otherwise this is a versatile option.
Verdict: Smooth and speedy mid-depth wheelset for road or triathlon.
Miche Supertype 440 RC Disc
The Supertype 440 RC Disc wheelset isn’t cheap, but there are lofty perks to match, including: carbon-bodied hubs with smoothrolling SKF bearings, a titanium freehub body and high-quality 3K carbon rims.
The 17mm internal rim widths are narrow compared to some triathlon wheelsets in this test, but they’ll work just fine with 28mm tyres. A fairly light combined weight of 1,476g lends a hand on the climbs and we didn’t really detect any flex on uphill efforts, either.
While pure speed isn’t the aim with these wheels at 44mm deep, we didn’t quite feel as explosive on the Supertypes compared to the Dedas, with the hub feeling slower to engage.
They’re still nice and smooth, remaining a solid all-round option if you regularly take on hilly courses and want a lighter triathlon wheelset with some speed benefits.
Verdict: Not the sharpest, but a solid all-rounder nonetheless.
Reynolds ARX 58/62 DB
For £150 more than Reynolds’ AR 58/62, the premium ARX wheelset comes with Sapim bladed spokes and Reynolds’ all-road hub. There are 10° of engagement in the freehub and if you’re a fan of a screechy ride, then these wheels do sound rather intimidating.
Rim tape comes already fitted (tubeless valves also included) and fitting tyres was stress-free. An internal width of 19mm front/21mm rear means that 25mm is the lowest tyre width you can go for.
The depth allows the ARX 58/62 to shine on flats and downhills with a nice tailwind, while none of our effort felt wasted. The front wheel took a bit of a hit in crosswinds; not to the point of being uncontrollable, but a little more than expected considering the shallower depth. Overall, these wheels are ideal for fast and flat triathlon courses, unless it’s very windy.
Verdict: They catch the wind, but are exhilarating at high speeds.
CES Sport RC 60/88
The RC 60/88 is the cheapest wheelset on test. They’re tubeless compatible, rim tape is included and you’re backed by a two-year warranty and crash replacement scheme. At 1,825g they’re heavier than the similarly-deep Parcours Chrono, which we felt on climbs.
While the performance at high speeds on flat roads and descents is good, we find the RCs the most unpredictable of all wheels on test in crosswinds and keeping control of the front end’s more of a battle than we’d like.
They’re nice and stiff, though, barely flexing at all on hills or when out of the saddle, they run true and gave us extra speed on flat roads. Just expect them to feel a little heavy and unremarkable, and harder to handle at the front than other wheels with a more modern rim profile in crosswinds.
Verdict: A ‘bargain’ for triathlon wheels. But it comes with performance compromises.
Hunt 54 Aerodynamicist
If you’re after a decent set of wheels that’ll cover you for both road racing and triathlons, on hills and in changeable conditions, then these are the best of the bunch.
The 54 Aerodynamicist has the same rim profile as its premium 54 UD carbon spoke and 48 Limitless wheelsets; the trade-off being steel spokes instead of carbon, but all the benefits of tunnel-tested wide rims remain.
They’re remarkably stable in crosswinds considering the 54mm depth and that wider contact patch nicely smooths out rough roads, absorbing most of the unwanted vibrations.
The 1,524g pair also climbs well, with the noisy freehub alerting others to our presence when descending. Add in a three-year warranty plus lifetime crash replacement service, and there’s very little not to like.
Verdict: Excellent and versatile triathlon wheelset at a decent price.
Roval Rapide CLX 51/60
While most of the bike industry moves to tubeless-compatible, Specialized’s sub-brand Roval has performed something of a U-turn by making the CLX 51/60 tube-only.
They say this is so they can make ‘lighter and better complete wheel systems’ for performance riding. With our inner tubes installed on the wide rims (21mm internally), they impress with their responsiveness and complete confidence in crosswinds.
The 51mm front is also deep enough to offer plenty of aero benefit without the wobbles. There’s no doubt that the Rapide CLX is rapid and the impressive 1,400g weight makes it great for climbing.
If you’re a tubeless fan and on any kind of budget, there are alternatives that perform similarly for less, but a lifetime warranty and no-fault crash replacement sweetens the deal.
Verdict: A highly innovative triathlon wheelset…with a hefty price tag to match.
This new full carbon wheelset was subjected to countless hours of R&D, starting with Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) analysis to design a disc brake, tubeless-ready wheel optimised for 28mm tyres and refined in the wind tunnel. Parcours claim it’s faster than their Passista wheelset even with 25mm tyres, and can save up to 19 watts compared to a baseline shallow wheelset.
The 49mm front/54mm rear depth was no problem in crosswinds, and they roll incredibly smoothly with a pleasant hum from the rear hub. Bladed spokes further improve aerodynamics and, although fairly light at 1,520g, they felt tough enough to take on battered British roads.
We found the rim bed was stubborn with some tyres when it came to popping the bead off the edge of the rim, so try some tyre combinations to ensure you can replace rapidly should you puncture in a race.
Verdict: The long development period has produced great performing triathlon wheels at a decent price,
CES Sport RC88
Cardiff-based triathletes CES Sport are new to us here and their aim is to bring aero gains to the masses with their basement prices. And this is just about the most affordable deep dish set you’ll find without buying direct from the Far East.
The 24 rear and 20 front aero spokes laced in a radial pattern provide a decent amount of strength, and crosswind battles are about what we’d expect from wheels with an 88mm depth, while feeling suitably fast on the flats with low winds.
The basalt-infused brake track performed well in the wet without squealing or feeling too grabby, and the sounds produced by the freehub are just the right amount of intimidating. They don’t feel quite so alive as the more luxurious triathlon wheelsets out there and, at 1,825g a pair, aren’t the lightest even for deep rims, but at this price we can accept a couple of compromises.
Verdict: A little less refined than some of the competition, but a bargain deep-rim buy.
Progress A-Prime Disc
These special edition disc brake wheels in a 50mm depth front and rear have graphene infused to bring the weight down further and increase strength, while a wide 21mm internal rim measurement means you can fit wider tyres for increased comfort.
They weigh in at 1,450g – seriously impressive for disc brake wheels – although we noticed they didn’t feel quite so tough on rough road surfaces and in inclement weather compared to more robust pairs on test, despite the graphene infusion.
And yet, for race day, they’ll make a fast addition to your road or triathlon bike with no weight penalty. They still cost much more than similar triathlon wheelsets from Parcours and Scribe with no discernibly better performance evident.
Yet they’re still at the lower end of the price scale for what you get compared to Zipp et al, which is a largely reliable, swift wheelset with interesting tech innovations.
Verdict: Impressive performance combined with cutting-edge technology.
Vision Metron 55 SL Clincher/TL wheelset
Vision’s USA-designed Metron carbon rims weigh in at 1,580g for the pair, not the lightest for a rim brake set of wheels but not the worst considering their 55mm depth.
They’ll suit fans of a quieter hub as the sound is more discreet from the back when you’re freewheeling, with six sealed cartridge bearings inside the hubs that engage quickly and provide a fast and responsive ride.
The micro-dot brake surface is predictable and reliable even in the wet on British winter roads, and in high winds we didn’t feel any noticeable instability.
At more than double the cost of some of the triathlon wheelsets in this test, though, they lose marks for comparative value as we didn’t gauge clear extra performance benefits on the roads (admittedly we haven’t tested in a wind tunnel), but the graphics look great, the rims roll well and come ready to set up tubeless if you prefer that option.
Verdict: Solid and stylish triathlon wheels, but pricier than most of the competition on test here.
Scribe Aero 50/65 Disc
New UK brand Scribe offer you more than a nondescript imported wheelset with a badge on for your £870, with the 65mm rear coming with their exclusive Five4 hubs with 6.6 degrees of engagement for a responsive ride.
The freehub is extremely screechy and won’t be for everyone, but if you want to announce your arrival when you pass a rival triathlete then these are the wheels to do that with. This is another wheelset that uses the Sapim CX-Ray aero spokes, with 21 at the front and 24 at the rear in a radial pattern, and, at 1,498g, the weight is impressively low.
But they also feel tough and more than capable of taking on British roads year-round. A 19mm internal width will easily accommodate 28mm tyres, and they arrive taped up with tubeless-ready valves to make the 50/65s a truly modern and very affordable carbon race wheelset.
Verdict: Fast and stable wheels for triathlon that come at a very affordable price; although incredibly loud.
Revolver Kronostok 6/9
The 90mm rear and 60mm front version of Revolver’s 1,780g Kronostock 6/9 wheels are ideal for your tri-specific bike, with the price brought down lower for 2020 to make them a real bargain.
Revolver’s new 321 hubs are specifically designed for the 2:1 spoke ratio (two spokes on the driveside for each one on the non-driveside), which they say results in less flex and equal tensioning.
In combination with the aerodynamic spokes, we found the Kronostoks incredibly stable in crosswinds considering their depth, and they have a vibrant ride feel with a pleasant hum from the freehub when you’re off the pedals.
The unusual skewers have very minimal levers and it took us a couple of tries to be confident we’d secured them properly, but this is a small gripe over what’s a watt-saving bargain of a wheelset.
Verdict: Outstanding value, stable in winds and hard to fault for triathlon race day.
Mavic Comete Pro Carbon SL UST Disc
Mavic’s top-end triathlon wheels aren’t cheap, but they’re trusted by countless pro triathletes to offer rims that are fast and stable with low rolling resistance.
The Comete Pro Carbon SL UST Disc from the French brand are tubeless-ready, weigh 1,515g a pair and come supplied with Mavic’s own Yksion Pro UST tyres, tubeless sealant, rim tape and valves (you can also run them as clinchers with tubes).
The hubs are convertible to QR with the use of supplied adapters, useful if you want to swap them between disc and rim brake bikes. Before we hit the road we faced a problem that, after feedback from other athletes, we’re not alone in facing: the tyres are an absolute faff to fit. We soon gave up with Mavic’s own tyres and used some from another brand.
On the road, the wheels rolled reliably and smoothly as we’d expect from Mavic. The 45mm depth had no problems in crosswinds, and the sound from the hub lets cyclists know you’re coming without being too noisy.
The fitting issues are the last thing you want to hear if you’re an athlete running tubeless who’s flatted and needs to add a tube in to complete the bike. For that reason, they miss out on the victory in this head-to-head.
Verdict: Lovely and smooth wheels for triathlon, but a considerable pain to mount tyres onto.
Top image credit: Alexander Bogatyrev/Getty Images